Is Unified Commerce the New Omnichannel?

Whether you’re focusing on honing your omnichannel strategy or you’ve enabled unified commerce in-store to help boost revenue, it all begins and ends with creating a great customer experience. But with so many buzzwords flying around the retail space, how can you be sure you’re making the right choice?Let’s start by defining these two retail methodologies.

What is Omnichannel?

Omnichannel retail is a structure that ensures an integrated experience for the consumer when interreacting with a retail brand. It utilizes a variety of purchase pathways — online, in-store, over the phone — with processes that ensure the shopper is experiencing the same feeling with each type of interaction. It’s a blend of physical and digital retail spaces to ensure the customer is always able to find what they need while always knowing who they’re shopping with.

To summarize, wherever a customer shops, their experience with your brand and your business remains the same. This gives them complete confidence in every channel of your brand and the flexibility to move across channels without fear.

What is Unified Commerce?

Unified commerce is a bit different. The IT research firm, Gartner, defines it as:

The practice of providing flexibility, continuity, and consistency across digital and physical channels to deliver a superior customer experience. This consistency includes multiple phases of the customer’s buying journey, including when a customer is searching, browsing for, transacting, acquiring, and consuming a product or service.”

Essentially, unified commerce aims to create a completely frictionless retail experience with no interruptions to deter their completion of purchase. This retail process isn’t using multiple channels to create a seamless experience, rather it’s using one piece of software to ensure the same result but with all data, information, and interaction history housed in one place; one version of a business’s retail truth.

Unified commerce is the evolution of omnichannel. It’s created when the customer is at the center of your entire business strategy, ensuring a 360-degree view of the customer and their needs. This should impact every area of your business — whether it’s front-of-house, customer facing experience or it’s back-end processes like reporting — so that you’re always providing a personalized experience. When you mold your strategy to be customer-centric, it creates retail that goes above and beyond to delight your customers, more than just moving them seamlessly across channels. But without a robust technological system at the core of your business, unified commerce just isn’t possible.

What is the Difference, Really?

While the two systems have similar end results, friction can come from when multiple softwares, systems, or processes are trying to work together.

Imagine this: what happens when a customer is in-store looking for a product they saw on your Instagram page but the store associate tells them it’s now out-of-stock due to the social promotion that is running; the one that brought the customer to you in the first place. The customer is frustrated as online, the product is still showing as available for that specific location. When systems don’t have real-time updates to provide complete visibility into inventory, that customer has a disjointed purchase journey, which may result in them abandoning the purchase altogether or heading over to a competitor who has what they’re looking for. And your associate, or even call center, may not have full inventory visibility across channels either to offer the customer an alternative. It also begs the question of why your marketing team wasn’t using inventory data to know stock levels weren’t high enough to run that promotion for that area?

Now imagine: A customer sees a promotion online and decides they want to go in-store to experience the product first hand and ask a few questions — they would prefer to talk about their purchase with a real person. The store associate greets them, already having an understanding of their online history, and is able to provide not only the product that’s in-stock but also easily answer the questions the customer has. The customer is so delighted they also decide to buy an additional item. But wait! The color variation they want isn’t in-stock. The associate offers to order it for them on the same transaction and the product will be shipped directly to the customer. The customer receives a text message with the shipping details and clicks a link where they can track the delivery vehicle in real-time for near instant delivery.

Unified commerce still depends on the functional back-office systems that form foundation of omnichannel retail, but it also has an eye on the future. How? Unified commerce takes into account the customer journey beyond the transaction. By incorporating continuous reminders of your brand through various, non-invasive reminders like social media ads for complementary products that would act as a value-add to products that a customer has viewed or purchased in the past. 

Unlike omnichannel, unified commerce can also be clearly broken down into three core strategies:

  1. Bring all relevant data from your functional business areas together within a single repository, creating that single version of the truth.
  2. Take that data and mine it for consumer insights and business opportunities using advanced analytics.
  3. Using these results, present the right items, offers, and services to each customer at each moment of an interaction. This not only allows you to keep product in view of the customer’s curious eye, it ensures that each product shown is actually of interest to a customer.

Omnichannel or Unified Commerce: How Do You Decide?

When you’re evaluating these two models of seamless retail, a unified commerce vs Omnichannel, it’s important to understand how your business wants to interact with your customers. While both omnichannel and unified commerce will offer a streamlined in-store and online experience for customers, the deciding factor for your business might be how you value the customer relationship. Omnichannel will ensure that while a customer is with you, they’re experiencing a best-in-class retail interaction. Unified commerce takes that one step further, ensuring that the after-transaction parts of the buyer journey are taken care of, creating a meaningful connection with your shoppers.

Creating a 360-degree view of your customer isn’t as hard as it seems and while it will take some change of process for your wireless retail store, it promises increased customer loyalty with a massive potential for boosted, bottom-line revenue. Sounds pretty good, hey? 

See how you can make it happen for your business by reading out free whitepaper.